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Liturgical day: January 17th: St. Anthony, the Abbot

Gospel text (Mt 19,16-26): A young man approached him and asked, «Master, what good work must I do to receive eternal life?». Jesus answered, «Why do you ask me about what is good? Only one is Good. If you want to enter eternal life, keep the commandments». The young man said, «Which commandments?». Jesus replied, «Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself». The young man said to him, «I have kept all these commandments, what is still lacking?». Jesus answered, «If you wish to be perfect, go and sell all that you possess and give the money to the poor and you will become the owner of a treasure in heaven. Then come back and follow me».

On hearing this answer, the young man went away sad for he was a man of great wealth. Jesus said to his disciples, «Truly I say to you: it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, believe me: it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven». On hearing this the disciples were astonished and said, «Who, then, can be saved?». Jesus looked steadily at them and answered, «For humans it is impossible, but for God all things are possible».

«Go and sell all that you possess and give the money to the poor (…) Then come back and follow me»

Fr. Antoni CAROL i Hostench
(Sant Cugat del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain)

Today we celebrate with emotion the memory of St. Anthony, the Abbot. One of the most popular Fathers of the Church. Born in Egypt, he lived between the 3rd and 4th centuries. He was one of the first monks of Christianity and a pioneer among the hermits: after giving his possessions to the poor, he retired to the desert to subsist on a life of prayer and penance.

"Come and follow me" (Mt 19:21). Yes, we are "elated" for, by musing over the exemplary life of St. Anthony, we see that the Church very clearly recognized the "method" from its very beginning: prayer, prayer, prayer. Times and circumstances may change, pastoral needs may change too or even doctrinal discussions..., but what will never change is the path to follow Jesus: prayer, prayer, prayer. We still pray to Jesus Christ! We get to know God and reach Him by praying!

And this "method" is common for all of us. The monks, hermits, as in the case of St. Anthony, the Abbot, give us a radical testimony that should lighten all others. It is not an exaggerated attitude, but a radical choice, as radical - firm, strong, untouchable - is any real love.

«Sell your possessions...». To walk the path of prayer we should travel light. If we are hauling too many things we do not speak with God or with anyone else: we go our own way! Let us learn from Christ: the Son of man, by having nothing, did not even have a comfortable place at His birth, or where to lay His head during His public ministry, or even to die.

«Give to the poor». St. Anthony, the Abbot did not "seek refuge" in the desert to "defend himself" from people, but to consecrate himself to God, and in God, to surrender to men. Precisely, where he was, there came many to share his path or to receive his consolation and guidance. «The prayer God likes is that which goes from a personal encounter with Him to a life devoted to the cheerful service of others» (Pope Francis).